WASHINGTON – The United States has decided to provide equipment to Kurds in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the fight against Islamic State despite staunch opposition from Turkey.
President Donald Trump authorized the Department of Defence to provide small arms, machine guns, ammunition, armoured vehicles and other equipment, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said Tuesday in a statement.
The SDF, partnered with coalition forces, “are the only force on the ground that can successfully seize [al-Raqqa] in the near future,” White said.
Al-Raqqa has been under Islamic State control since 2014. A major offensive to recapture the city began in November.
Turkey accuses the Syrian Kurds of having links to the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which it deems a terrorist group and is fighting an insurgency on its own territory. Erdogan wants to see the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia sidelined in the battles against Islamic State.
White said the US is keenly aware of Turkey’s security concerns.
“We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the US is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally,” White said.
The statement said the US continues to prioritize our support for Arab elements of the SDF, and al-Raqqa and all liberated territory should return to the governance of local Syrian Arabs. -DPA